Do you know these are edible weeds ?

There are many types of edible wild vegetables and shoots that are sold in local markets.However,there are some leafy vegetables which are more rare than others.Among these are the four edible weeds that are shown here :

The first one is the Ironweed aka Kechondong ari (Iban) aka Tambak bukit (Malay) which is actually a Chinese herb for ages, more popular among the Hakka people.Its Hakka name is Xiao shan hu (消山虎).Its ID is Vernonia Cinerea (Linn.)Less.It is included here because its has flowers that look very much like the other three edible weeds.

Ironweeds with tiny purple tube like flowerheads.

Its has tiny purple flowers with diameter 2-3mm  and the plant is very slender with height 20-80 cm.The leaves are very tiny too.In Chinese medicine ,it is used for cough caused by colds or flu.Infusion of the dry/fresh plant without the flowerheads is taken for cough caused by colds and flu.Triterpenes are the major constituent of the herb which give the herb its therapeutic properties.It is difficult to grow and usually can be found growing wild in open space.

In Thailand,it has been used to relieve cigarette craving.Ironweed infusion does not taste bitter.In fact,it does not taste like medicine.Hakka people believe that it can be taken regularly owing to its ability to get rid of ‘wind’ from our body system.

Veronia cinerea (Linn.) a.k.a kechondong ari
Veronia cinerea (Linn.) a.k.a Ironweed grown wild under the fruit tree.

The next on the list is the American burnweed/fireweed . Its ID is Erechtites hieracifolia (L)Raf.ex DC.It is also known as Sintrong (Sunda) ,Sawi Rusa (Iban) and Jebung (Bidayuh).In Chinese is 昭和草 which is very popular in Taiwan and Japan.It has a kind of mint taste.

Cup shaped flowers of Sawi rusa
Urn-shaped flowers of Sawi rusa/Sintrong

Its has inflorescence terminal bearing pinkish red flowerheads with diameter 6-7 mm.Its leaves are broad lance-shaped with irregularly toothed margins.Its flowers and leaves are edible.Very often flowers are collected and deep-fried or pan-fried with batter or simply fry with eggs.The leaves smell like mint and best eaten raw with tempoyak and grated nuts.

Sawi rusa served with tempoyak ,chillies and groundnuts/cashew nuts
Sawi rusa aka Sintrong served with tempoyak ,chillies and groundnuts/cashew nuts

The picture below shows Sawei/Sipiyuon aka Tropical burnweed which is very popular among the land dayak as wild vegetable.Like sintrong,its has inflorescence terminal bearing flowerheads of same size and shape but the colour is more orange red.Its leaves are oblong lance – shaped and deeply lobed.Its ID is Erechtites valerianifolia (Link ex Spreng) DC. as identified by our research officers at the Research Center Of Semongok.


Malayan groundsel Sipiyuon(Bidayuh) Anak mambong(Iban)
Sawei (Bidayuh) Anak mambong(Iban)

An interesting feature of this wild vegetable is it tastes very similar to ‘Tang Oh’ from China.Tang Oh from China is Chrysanthemum coronarium L.Wild ‘Tang Oh’ plants sprout from the hill padi field shortly after the land is burnt and if  heavy rain follows,the whole area  will be full of the young plants.The taste is exactly like the cultivated one except that it has stronger fragrance and the leaves are more crunchy.These two features make it great for steam boat or any soup which needs extra flavour.Blanch the leaf and add thick soya sauce,brown sugar,lime juice,olive oil and chilly powder.Yummy,yummy,yummy……….


Champian cup shaped flowers of Malayan groundsel
Champian cup shaped flowers of Sawei

The flowers are cooked in the same way as the sintrong.Though Sintrong always grow wild side by side with Sawei,they taste quite different.Sawei leaves are soft and taste good in soup.Its leaves can be eaten raw too,like the sintrong leaves.Both sintrong and sawei are difficult to grow in urban area.However,they thrive very well in hill padi fields.


Jonghe(Sudan) grows well in pot.

The picture above shows sayur jonghe(Sundan),aka Setumbak Merah(Malay),Ensabi Bukit (Iban),Cupid’s shaving brush and its Chinese name is 一点红.It grows wild but can be grown easily in pots.All three of these weeds,jonghe,sintrong and Sawei are popular in Indonesia as well.Its ID is Emilia sonchifolia L.The shape of its flowers look like sintrong and sawei flowers but the colour is purplish pink.The lower leaves are heart-shaped and the upper leaves linear with tooth margins with base expanded clasping the stem.Flowers can be collected and deep fried or pan-fried with batter .

All three of these weeds have tiny seeds dispersed by wind and  leaves that can be eaten raw.Sintrong tastes better when eaten raw.Sawei has good flavour and tastes good both  in soup or eaten raw.As for Jonghe leaves,only the young ones can be used.

Malayan groundsel served with tempoyak,chillies and groundnuts/cashew nuts
Daun Sawei and daun jonghe served with tempoyak,chillies and groundnuts/cashew nuts.

About tempoyak,please click here.

About the nutritional value of Sawi rusa,please click here.

Be proud of our rainforest.It provides us with a huge diversity of  wild edibles including the wild ferns and herbaceous plants that can be used as herbs and vegetables as well,not to mention all the wild fruits and rare nuts.


                                Love nature.

                                       Love our rainforest.

                                              Love our mother earth.









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More nuts from Sarawak jungle – part 3

Melinjau is an interesting nut shared by  both Sarawakians and Indonesians.The young fruits are green in colour and turn to different shades of yellow to red on ripening.The fruit is rich in potassium with 624 mg per 100 g of fresh edible portion.At first glance,these fruits look like bigger version of ripe pepper berries.

Melinjau fruits on ripening turns to different shades of yellow to red colour.

The green and unripe fruits are sold in local markets and cooked as vegetable. .All we have to do is boil the seeds and remove the green skin to reveal a white and soft nuts inside.The nuts of unripe seeds are tender and nutty and are well sought after by local Indonesian restaurants for cooking sayur asam or curry.This Indonesian vegetarian soup requires  sweetcorns or baby corns, long beans, daun sabong and those skinned unripe nuts of melinjau.Add asam keping or belimbing asam and dry chillies to this soup and boil for at least 15 minutes.Add salt to taste.It is so delicious.

Unripe melinjau
Unripe melinjau

The green melinjau can be boiled and eaten with the skin.Some of us prefer to eat them without the skin.The skinned nuts of melinjau look like groundnuts but taste different.It has a tint of bitterness and good flavor.The picture below shows the skinned unripe melinjau nuts.


Skinned nuts of melinjau.

The steps of preparing the keropok are as follow:- First they boil the fruits, remove the outer skin.There is still another layer of shell-like skin left as shown in the picture below.They then toast the nuts on a iron cast pan.Using a small hammer,they hammer a few hot nuts together until the skin comes off and the nuts flattened to become one piece of cracker.These are then dried in the sun.

Mature melinjau seeds
Mature melinjau seeds

Ripe fruits are quite tough and taste more bitter than the unripe fruits.They are not suitable for cooking sayur asam.They have a layer of tough skin enclosing the nuts inside.This layer of skin is soft for the unripe fruits so can be eaten together with the cooked nuts.For ripe fruits,this layer of skin has to be peeled off.The more ripe they are,the more bitter they become.The ripe nuts are for making Keropok melinjau or simply called Emping Belinjo in Indonesia.Keropok melinjau is very popular in Kuching.Usually local Chinese would prepare a tin or two of this deep fried crackers for Chinese New Year.

Keropok emping
Super thick Keropok melinjau with chilli flakes.

The best emping melinjau which is thick and fragrant, can be found at Serikin,the border town of Bau area. After deep fried, these aromatic nutty cracker tastes super delicious with a tint of bitter taste and rich flavour.Eating them together with nasi lemak or nasi Briyani is simply an experience you won’t forget.Nobody should complaint of its high price for this super cracker considering the tedious work the Indonesian mothers done to prepare it.

Keropok Emping from Kalimantan.
Keropok melinjau from Kalimantan.

Another interesting thing about melinjau is its leaves which is called daun sabong which is used as a replacement of Cangkuk manis aka sweet leaf.The cultivated tree usually has light green leaves through out whereas the wild tree gives red and pink leaves with the older green leaves.

Daun Sabong
The pink and red leaves of Daun Sabong.

The red and pink leaves are young leaves which are used for stir frying with bamboo shoots or coconut shoots.The older leaves are used for cooking soup.Crumble the leaves in between fingers before cooking just like the way we cook cangkuk manis,the sweet leaves.

The picture below shows coconut shoots stir fried with duan sabong.

Daun sabong fried with coconut shoot.
Coconut shoot stir fried with daun sabong.

Another wild nuts mentioned earlier in my last post is the jering.In Sarawak,we have Jering padi which is smaller and rounder in size.They look brownish in color.The nuts of Jering padi are less bitter than the regular flat Jering(jering papan).

Baskets of Jerings
Jering in baskets for sale in market.

Simply boil the nuts for 1 hour and eat with gula apong.As I have mentioned earlier,Jering is not as popular as Petai which is also slightly bitter but the nuts are crunchy and having rich flavor.Never miss petai if anyone of you visit Malaysia.

Boiled jerings from the market.

After all these posts about nuts,I really become nuts ! But if viewers think that is all about nuts,then you are very wrong.I still have one nut to go but enough of all these nuts for the time being !

Bye bye nuts ! Its time to do some wild vegetables.Hee……………..ha……!




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Have you seen those rare nuts from Sarawak rainforest (part 2) ?

Being the most controversial jungle produce of our homeland, kepayang the football fruit (Pangium edule Reinw) is well liked by the Ibans here and they are the people who know how to prepare the nuts which can be poisonous if eaten raw.Packets of prepared kepayang kernels which are crunchy and nutty are sold in markets.The kepayang fruits are non-seasonal.

Kepayang fruits
Kepayang fruits/football fruits

Repeated process of boiling and soaking in water can get rid of the hydrocyanide content in the nuts.Unlike the Indonesians who prepare dried buah keluak for peranakan cooking,our natives break the fruits and take out the seeds which must be boiled for at least three hours.To extract the kernels,a layer of seed coat has to be removed.With all the kernels collected,the natives continue their tedious preparation of the edible kernels for sale in the market by soaking them in several changes of water for a few days.However,it is better to boil again the Kepayang  kernels bought from the markets until no bitter taste is detected.The presence of hydro cyanide is indicated by the bitter taste.The carefully prepared nuts can then be eaten plain with salt or stir-fry with tapioca shoots or ulam.Another way of cooking is to stir-fry with long bean and dried chillies.Add brown sugar and thick soya source to taste.

Boiled kepayang nuts for sale in the market
Boiled kepayang nuts for sale in the market

Ibans who live nearby the river would collect the kepayang seeds in a gunny sack and soak it in the river for a few days.In this way,the hydrocyanide can be removed by the running water since it is soluble in water.Boiling and soaking the nuts continues after this process.

Indonesian way of preparing kepayang seeds is different.They ferment the boiled seeds in wood ash for a couple of months.The kernel then turns into a black and greasy mass which is used in cooking Peranakan curry chicken.It is called buah keluak in Indonesia.

The most interesting part of Kepayang tree is its leaves.I used to wait for Malay boat men to stop by our jetty and bought salted fish from them.My late mom would get kepayang leaves from her Iban friends,chopped the big leaves finely and mixed them with the fish.After a few weeks,she would stir fry the fish together with the shredded leaves.I just cannot forget the rich taste of the kepayang leaves,very crispy,salty and aromatic.

Here is a picture of the big kepayang leaf :

Kepayang leaf
Kepayang leaf


 Petai and Jering in local market.
Petai and Jering in local market.

There are two other local nuts which are more well known because they can be found in West Malaysia too.The green ones are Petai and the dark ones are Jering.Little is known of the white petai found growing wild in the jungle.The white petai is considered rare because it is mostly wild unlike the green petai which are semi-wild or cultivated.


White petai
White Petai

Petai seed is slightly bitter with an astringent taste and strong smell.It is surprisingly delicious when it is cooked with vegetarian belacan and chilli.People get addicted to its unique taste easily.Somehow this nut aids in digestion so it can be used as an appetizer.Our natives like to roast the long pods of petai over fire,peel the pod skin and eat the seeds with sambal belacan.Petai dish is forever popular in local restaurants and cafes.

Strings of Petai bean in market.
Strings of Petai bean in market.

Petai is more popular than Jering because it is less bitter and the nuts texture is not that tough.Jering seed has astringent taste and stronger pungent smell than the petai seeds.Most of the time we have to boil jering seeds to make it tender but in the case of petai, there is no need to boil young petai seeds.Just stir fry it with sambal or cook it in Kelabit(an ethnic group) way,i.e, stir fry with bunga kantan and chilli,add salt and lime juice.Another option is blanch all the ingredients and mix them together with salt and lime juice.

Petai stir fried with bunga kantan and chilli
Petai  mixed with bunga kantan and chilli.

Nutritional content of all these nuts can be found here.Please check my other post on Rare nuts part 1 .

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What are the popular sour,sour fruits of Malaysia(part 2) ?


There are two popular sour fruits which are very similar in appearance and taste found in most part of  South East Asia.Though very similar in many aspects,they have different ID – Snake fruit is identified as Salacca edulis Reinw and buah Ridan/Salak hutan is Salacca affinis Griff.

Both are stemless or almost stemless palm growing in lowland except that Salak is cultivated and Salak hutan is wild.Both are grown in large clusters of tall,long and thick-stalked  and spiny leaves.Salak hutan has longer spines than the Salak tree.In other words,their trees look almost exactly the same and the obvious difference is in their fruits.Both plants are dioecious and they are non-seasonal like the asam paya tree.


Salak (Salacca edulis Reinw.)

 Most people are quite familiar with Buah Salak a.k.a Snake fruit due to its scaly snake like skin and the wild version  of it which is Salak hutan is less known.Salak Hutan or Buah Ridan/Salak merah is mostly found growing wild in the jungles.At first look,they look very much alike except in their skin color,salak with brown skin and salak hutan with red skin.On closer look,you might notice that Salak fruit is more round whereas salak hutan has a slender shape with a more pointed and longer tip.Both have scaly,snake-like skin and open to reveal three segments with creamy white pulp and a big brown seed inside.

The best way to relish these two fruits is to eat them raw due to its good taste.It is not as sour as the asam paya.Salak or the snake fruit has thicker pulp than the salak hutan but a ripe salak hutan fruit is sweeter and more juicy than the snake fruit. Remember to peel off the thin membrane enclosing the thin pulp of each of the fruit segments before sucking the juicy pulp.


salak hutan / Buah Ridan
Salak hutan / Buah Ridan (Salacca affinis Griff.)

Asam paya a.k.a Buah maram in Iban is widely used in local cooking.The fruit has tough scaly skin enclosing a round and thick pulp with a seed in it.Its fruit is extremely sour , so sour that it cannot be eaten raw and is used as a substitute for asam jawa or asam keping in hot and sour soup like tom yam or laksa soup,also in umai and sambal.Its ID is Eleiodoxa conferta Griff.

It is a stemless palm growing wild along fresh water rivers and peat swamp forests.The tree is dioecious and the fruiting is non-seasonal.Its mature leaves can be used for thatching roof and the dry scaly skin used as fuel.

Pickled Asam Paya
Pickled Asam Paya

Basically there are two types of asam paya,the yellow skinned and the maroon skinned.Usually it is pickled and eaten like the pickled sour plum,that is eaten with sugar or make sour drink with it.In cooking,it is used in steaming seafood or added in soup to impart the sour taste to the soup.

asam paya
Maroon skin and yellow skin asam paya

The next interesting sour fruit is the Pedada (Iban) or Buah Berembang (Malay).It is also known as mangrove apple or crab apple and its scientific name is Sonneratia caseolaris .It is found in mangrove forests and also along rivers nearer to the seaside.It has a unique appearance,looking like a top or gasing in Malay.Look at the picture below.Does it look like a lantern hanging from the branch ? Look at its star-like cap.The unripe fruit can be eaten raw but usually it is cooked in hot and sour soup.Strangely enough,pedada skin,when eaten raw, tastes better than its pulp.It is crispy and sour,less bitter than its seedy pulp.It is also interesting to note that wherever there are pedada trees,there will be a lot of  fire flies.

Unripe pedada
The sour and unripe fruit of pedada.Look at its interesting shape !

Buah Kundong is another fruit used in cooking sour soup.It is a kind of wild mangosteen with a smaller size and its pulp does not taste as good as mangosteen.Its latin name is Garcinia parvifolia Miq.The fruit itself is sourish sweet but the skin is as sour as the skin of the belimbing hutan (Malay) a.k.a Ucong (Iban).The skin of both of these fruits are used as tamarind or asam jawa in cooking.Land Dayak in Kuching area use Ucong skin for making wine .

Manggis and Buah Kundong
Manggis and Buah Kundong










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What are the popular sour,sour fruits of Malaysia(part 1) ?

The most popular sour fruit of Malaysia is Buah kedondong.Its ID is Spondias dulcis,also known as Ambara in Malaysia,June plum in Jamaica.Its common name is golden apple or tropical apple.

Buah kudondong
Buah kudondong,Spondias dulcis

The mature fruit is crunchy,tastes sourish sweet with a very fibrous and spiky pit.The fruit is green and on ripening turns yellow.The ripe fruit is sweeter and more juicy than the green fruit but less crunchy.It is best described as a mix of a mango and pineapple.Most people would eat the ripe fruits raw and leave some of the green fruits for pickles or eaten raw with rojak,gado-gado or sambal belacan.When we were young,we used to eat this fruit with thick soya sauce and sugar,especially when the fruits were too sour.Some locals cook this fruit in curry which tastes like terung dayak (local brinjal) in hot and sour soup.

Buah kedondong eaten raw with plum powder and thick soya sauce.
Buah kedondong eaten raw with plum powder and thick soya sauce.Notice the spiky pit.

Pickled kedondong is very popular in Penang and Sarawak.They are often sold at the roadside stalls in cities and towns of Malaysia.They are pickled in the Chinese way,that is ,the fruits are soaked in brine and a few strips of licorice are added.This make the fruits look yellowish and taste sweeter too.

Old people may find this fruit too hard to chew so juicing it is another option and kedondong juice is a popular drink in Malaysia.Another way of relishing this fruit is by grating or pounding it and mix with vegetarian belacan(preserved and fermented soya bean paste ) and chilli.Be careful not to pound the pit to avoid the fibre.Most Chinese in Sarawak and Kalimantan use this dish as appetizer.It is indeed very appetizing.Occasionally one can find this dish in some vegetarian cafes in Kuching city.

Grated kedondong with vegetarian belacan and chilli.

Nowadays , grafted variety of Buah kedondong can be planted in big flower pots.These are the dwarf type and the fruits are smaller and less crunchy than the fruits of the tall variety.Kedondong young leaves can be eaten raw.They can be used in Nasi kerabu(Malaysian rice salad) or simply eaten raw with sambal belacan.

Young leaves of Buah Kedondong
Young leaves of Buah Kedondong

The next popular sour fruit is the Belimbing Besi or belimbing buluh(Malay) or Belimbing Masam(Iban) as shown below.Its ID is Averrhoa belimbi L.Its Chinese name means wild star fruit (山杨桃). Although it is less well known than the kedondong,it plays an important part in local dish like the hot and sour soup or laksa.This fruit is the best substitute for Asam jawa and asam keping.Just simply add them to the soup to impart sour taste.It plays its role as a sour agent very well.

Belimbing hutan
Belimbing besi(Malay)/Belimbing Masam(Iban)

Belimbing Masam tastes more sour than buah kedondong so it is quite impossible to eat it raw or even drink the juice .Some local people make vinegar with it.Making jam with it should be good.Most of us use this fruit as vegetable.My late mom used to steam it with balacan or salted fish and chilli.After steamed,it is less sour and the only side effect is the dish is too appetizing , good for growing teenagers.As a vegetarian myself, I steam the fruits with vegetarian belacan.

yellow skinned
Yellow skinned belimbing masam

There are two varieties of belimbing masam,one is green skin when young and turns yellowish on ripening and the other one is yellow through out.I prefer the green skinned variety because of its better taste,more sour but with good flavor.

Lakum (Malay)/fox grape

Another even less known sour fruit is called Buah Lakum.It is grown wild in the jungle,unlike the first two sour fruits which are cultivated quite commonly in villages.It is a climbing plant found along edges of secondary forest.Its common name is Fox grape with the scientific name of Cayratia trifolia.Its berries are green when young and ripen to deep purple.The berries look interesting due to its different shades of colours from green to pink and deep purple.The berries are smaller than a 10 cent coin.

Ripe fruits are sweeter and can be eaten raw.The green fruits are used for cooking hot and sour soup like belimbing masam.It can be propagated from seeds.Check table 3 for its nutritional value.









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More edible shoots and stems(part 4) – Wild taro stems

Very often ,we see yam stems or taro stems for sale in the markets but may look very alien to younger generation.This is a very good survival food plant .It is mostly wild and easily planted but can irritate the tongue,mouth and throat if a wrong variety is consumed.One word of caution – Taro/yam should never be eaten raw.

yam stems
Wild taro stems stir-fried with taro,tumeric leaf ,chilli and fermented beancurd.

In Malaysia,we call taro as yam and this is commonly accepted among us but one should not mess up this yam with the real yam which means the Chinese Yam and  the fake Chinese yam featured in my earlier post.The Chinese yam and the fake Chinese yam can be eaten raw.They taste sweet and slimy,great food for raw vegans.

yam stems
yam stems

Wild yam/taro in Sarawak is in the same family  as the regular yam known as Keladi Cina or keladi Dayak with ID as Colocasia Esculenta.Wild yam grows well in wet land.Some are planted by natives.Taro or yam stems are sold in the markets in  green and fleshy forms or ready-cut stems in baskets as shown in the picture above.The skin of the stems have to be peeled carefully before cooking to avoid its fibrous texture.This particular taro variety does not cause prickling sensation in the mouth and throat.To play safe,one can blanch the cut stems before cooking but most of us cook the dish straight away.

Taro/yam plant growing wild in the peat soil area.
Taro/yam plant growing wild in the wet land area in the city.

Special feature of wild yam is a maroon colored dot at the center of their elephant ear shaped leaf and the green stems.Usually we buy the stems from vendors whom we trust otherwise ending up cooking wrong type of yam stems causing prickling sensation in the tongue and throat.This is due to the toxin known as calcium oxalate crystals present in most taro plants except this particular wild variety.

The elephant ear shaped leaf has a red dot at the center.
The elephant ear shaped leaf has a maroon color dot at the center.

Another feature of this taro plant is the absence of a fleshy root or tuber.The purpose of planting this plant is for its edible stems and shoots.Since this wild taro plant thrives very well in the villages so most people do not bother to plant it.In the city,we try to plant them near the ponds or wet land area.

yam stems
Edible wild taro without fleshy roots.

Chinese way of cooking wild taro stems is simple, just stir-fry with yam/taro and fermented beancurd.Most natives would stir-fry with belacan and chilli.Local vegetarian belacan(fermented bean paste) or miso can be used in place of the belacan.

The stem is tasteless but it has the spongy texture of the patola or luffa.Cooking the stems with luffa or taro is the ideal recipe because the stems absorb and retain all the sweetness from luffa or cooked taro and make the dish very tasty.Strips of tumeric leaf can be added to the dish.

yam stem
Wild taro shoots .

This wild taro plant produces shoots too.Shoots taste sweet but lack of the spongy texture of the fleshy stems.The  procedure of preparing the shoots for cooking is the same as for  the stems,i.e peel the skin first and then cut into bite sizes.Cooking the shoots and stems share the same recipe.

yam stems
Taro/yam plant with purple stems .

The picture above shows another variety of  taro plant with a maroon dot at the centre of the leaves with  purple stems.The stems of this variety  are not edible.However,it has big tubers that are edible.

Emparuk shoots

The picture above shows another survival food plant called emparuk(Malay)/Paru(Bidayuh).Its scientific name is monochoria vaginalis.It is known as water hyacinth.It is an aquatic plant growing wild in wet padi fields,ponds and drains.Many of you gardeners must have notice its pretty purple flowers.The leaves are blanched and cook like kangkong,the water spinach.Its leaves have  high content of potassium and iron.It looks a bit like taro plant so please check on the flowers before consuming.Images of its flowers are not ready for display here.

Great food for survival,

Treasure them before they disappear ;

A lot of things to learn from our natives,

Let’s find more edibles from the wild.


Have you seen all these rare nuts from our rainforest (part 1)?

There are some strange and rare  but very delicious nuts from our rainforest here.One such nut is Kacang Kop(Bidayuh) or Merenti (Iban).In Hakka it is called wild groundnut(山地豆) which is a bit misleading because it does not really taste like one but more like kernel of our wild olive,dabai.Its ID is Ostodes pauciflora Merr.
Kop/merenti/buah brati/buah buantik/broti


Strange nuts of Borneo-so wild,so crunchy and so perfectly delicious are those  nuts of Borneo jungles that make us wonder wether they are endemic to Borneo.Of course they are not but are found in abundance in this part of the world.The top one in the collage is buah Brati(Bidayu),Buah buantik(Kalimantan),buah merenti(iban).The shell is so hard that a pestle is needed to crack it open and the kernels inside the nut taste like dabai kernels.The nuts have to be boiled for a few hours with salt.Most vendors in the markets sell boiled nuts.
Fresh fruits of buah merenti collected from  the trees.

The outer light green shell of each seed can be easily open to reveal a round,black seed with another hard shell and a  white kernel inside which has a nutty flavour.After boiling the seeds for about two or more hours with salt,the kernel can be taken out by pounding the black shell with a wooden pestle.It sounds troublesome,isn’t it ? Wait till one has tasted the nutty and tasty kernels inside the seeds,one will never complain of all the hard work done.

Mertenti fruits always appear in pairs.

The fruits have outer skin or shells that look exotic in shape.From far they look like ping pong balls hanging on the trees.Their fruit size is about the size of a ping pong ball.

Bunches of Merenti fruits.

Merenti fruits always appear in pairs and they look like pale yellow ping pong balls hanging on the trees.The shell turns greyish in colour when the fruits mature.Fruits have to be harvested at this stage before they drop  to the ground.


The picture above shows buah empit aka buah pelajau,praju,peladjau or empelanjau.These are medium sized trees growing along river banks.Very often our natives collect the floating nuts from the upper streams.The spongy, fibrous husk are then separated from the edible cotyledons.Natives around Kuching area like to stir-fry tempoyak and add empit to the dish while local chinese cook the nuts in soup with meat.It tastes like almond if eaten fresh.As for vegetarian, just boil the nuts for 30 minutes, add rock sugar and soya bean milk.The soup is fragrant and the nuts are super soft.This nut has   good export value.Empit is quite commonly sold in markets during end of the year.Its ID is Pentaspadon motleyi Hook.f.


The brown one at the bottom left is buah perah(malay),buah kelampai(iban),buah rampeh(bidayuh).Buah kelampai has to be boiled a few times before serving.It tastes more like rubber seeds.Fermented kelampai nuts are popular in indonesia and it is then made into a kind of paste for cooking,something like buah keluak.To cut short the cooking time,it is best to lightly crush the shell and then proceed with the boiling. Its ID is elateriospermum tapos.


Keranji - Velvet tamarind
Keranji madu- Velvet tamarind

The picture above shows keranji with common names as Velvet tamarind or tamarind plum.Actually   keranji  is not a nut.It looks like mini bird eggs with a black egg-like shell and a plum-like fruit with thin flesh and a hard pit inside.It is very similar to tamarind in taste which is sweet and sour .Basically there are three types of keranji -Keranji tanjan,keranji madu and keranji papan.Keranji is the smallest of length 1.5cm and width 1.2cm.It has sweet and black caramel-like flesh which can be eaten by sucking.The other two keranji has orange flesh.The fruit which is a good survival food in the jungle can be soaked in water to make sour,sweet drink.Keranji fruits can be kept in a tin for a few months by drying the fruits with shell on for a week in the sun.Its ID is Dialium indum L.

Bawang Hutan
Bawang Hutan/Buah Kulim/Garlic nuts

Bawang Hutan(Malay) or Sindu(Iban) was use as garlic in the olden days.The whole tree which means its trunk,flowers,leaves and fruits all smell like garlic.Its heavy and hard trunk is a first-class timber with its garlic odor.The leaves and nuts are used for flavoring food.Never eat this nut raw.It has to be cooked to be edible.For Malays,the nuts are used as herbal cure for high blood pressure.There are websites selling this herbal product.Usually natives cook soup with the nuts.Its ID is Scorodocarpus borneensis Becc.

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Giant pandan leaf and vegetarian zhang in Sarawak

Most people use bamboo leaves for wrapping Ba zhang/zong zi,the savory glutinous rice dumpling for Ba zhang festival.In Sarawak and Kalimantan,we use Giant pandan leaf for wrapping Ba zhang and the bamboo leaf for Kee zhang,the zhang cooked with a bit of alkaline solution.This Giant pandan tree grows up a height of 2-3 meter.It belongs to the same family of the regular pandan plant/screw pine we use in cooking Malaysian dishes i.e the family of pandanus.However,exact ID of this Giant pandan plant is still unclear.
Giant pandan leaves
Giant pandan leaves

 Its leaves are fragrant.Small spikes grow along both sides of young leaves but they disappear after the leaves mature.Just leave a leaf in the car to enjoy its fragrance.Giant pandan leaf can be soaked in warm water before use.Dip it dry before wrapping the zhang.Some of our zhang makers prefer to roll it straight with a wooden roller.

Steamed vegetarian zhang from my kitchen.

 The picture above shows the steamed vegetarian Ba zhang from my kitchen.I am following the Taiwanese way of cooking Ba zhang.I prefer to steam it because it is less time consuming and less oily too.Usual way of cooking Ba zhang is boiling them for 5-7 hours.Of course,time can be cut short by using pressure cooker but for zhang makers,there is no way to install a big pressure cooker in their kitchens.In the past,most people used biscuit tins because they were big enough to contain all the zhangs.

In my recipe to be shared later,I mix the ingredients together with the rice but in most ba zhangs in the markets one can find the filling is placed at the middle of the rice.Mixing the filling together with the rice is to cut short the preparation time.So whatever way will do,just be flexible.


Left – Vegetarian nyonya zhangs are sold at the vegetarian cafe almost everyday.Right – Kee zhangs/碱水粽 with red bean paste and the other one is plain.The plain zhang is dipped in gula apong or brown sugar syrup.

 The picture below shows the regular pandan plant/screw pine we use in Malaysian dessert like kueh and for cooking fragrant rice like nasi lemak,nasi brayani and numerous dishes.Its leaf is fragrant and is an important ingredient in Malaysian Malay and Nyonya dishes.Pandan leaf tea is a popular health drink in the country.

The other pandan leaf shown on the left is pandan serani which is of different family from the regular pandan plant .Its leaf is not fragrant.It is mostly used for green food dye.In Malaysia and Indonesia,pandan serani is used for cooking Kueh Hijau,green cakes and green rice.


Left – Regular pandan plant.  Right – Pandan serani

The picture below shows menkuang plant found in swampy land.It is of same family with the pandan plant but the leaf is not fragrant and is spiky on both sides.Its leaves are for weaving mats and baskets.Giant pandan plants can be found on Pulau Ubin near Singapore  but less common in the Peninsula Malaysia whereas mengkuang trees are quite commonly found in some states of West Malaysia.

Menkuang plant



Vegetarian Ba zhang

  • 3 cups glutinous rice (soaked overnight)
  • 200 g chai poh(optional) – shredded
  • 50 g mushroom – soaked overnight and chopped finely
  •  2 dry chilies -minced
  • 300 g groundnuts- sorted and washed,soaked overnight,then boiled  for 30 minutes.
  • 1/2 tsp 5 spices powder(optional)
  • 2 tbs thick soya sauce
  • 1 tsp light soya sauce
  • 12 giant pandan leaves – cut into 40 cm length and soaked in warm water.Dip dry for later use.
  • 1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves(optional) – chopped
  1. Fry the chilies,chai poh and mushroom together.
  2. Add rice and groundnuts followed by all the seasoning.
  3. Scoop all the mixture into a tray.Add 1 1/2 cups of water,some small pandan leaves and steam for 30 minutes.
  4. Wrap with 1 – 2 pieces of pandan leaves as shown in the picture below.Tie with a piece of thread or string.
  5. Steam for another 1 hour.
Left- Bundles of Giant pandan leaves for sale in the market. Right – Wrap the zhang with 1-2 pandan leaves by filling  the rice in the cone formed by overlapping the leaves and covering the top by folding the leaves.Tie with a piece of thread.

Picture below shows how it looks before steaming for another 1 hour.Picture on the left shows giant pandan leaves used for wrapping panggang.Glutinous rice,after soaking for one night, is steamed for 1/2- 1 hour with coconut milk and a bit of salt.Place the steamed rice on a pandan leaf,fold over,secure the open end with a tooth- pick and pan-fry on a iron skillet on low fire.Most panggang sold in markets are wrapped in banana leaves.This pandan panggang is full of pandan fragrance.Try this at home and you will thank me for that.

Left – Uncooked zhang. Right – Panggang folded in giant pandan leaf

Some local people like to cook Ba zhang in ketupat case.Never seen one does not mean it does not exist.It is happening in Sarawak – people cooking Ba zhang in ketupat case,mostly not for sale.

Yes,Giant Pandan in Sarawak.For it to grow well,swampy or wet land is the key.That is why mine is not growing well.




So gardeners,

let’s plant giant pandan leaves.

Bundles of pandan leaves are selling well in our city.













Copyright claim – Do not crop any pictures from not share our  pictures without any watermarked signature on them.Excerpts from our articles to be credited to

Tubers and root vegetables of Malaysia (part 2) – the ever popular sengkuang

Malaysian food cannot go without it.Guess what root vegetable is the most popular among us and our neighbours- yam bean/sweet turnip is the most versatile root vegetable in Malaysia.Its ID is Pachyrhizus Erosus.In English it is called sweet turnip,Chinese turnip,Mexican turnip,Jicama(pronounced hee-cama) or just yam bean.It is known as ubi sengkuang in Malay.In Chinese it is called Sha ge(沙葛) or Dou shu (豆薯) whereas local Chinese call it mangkuang (芒光).


According to Wikipedia and other sources from the net,yam bean is high in carbohydrates in the form of dietary or soluble fiber.It is composed of 86-90% water and contains only trace amount of protein and lipids.Its sweet flavor comes from the soluble fiber composed of oligofructose inulin which is a prebiotic,meaning it is a food for the good bacteria in the intestines.It is high in vitamin C,A and some Bs.It is high in potassium content.Because of its very low glycemic index,it is a great food for diabetics and its low calory content makes it a ideal food for weight loss.By the way,GI measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar.

Tofu pockets
Tofu pockets

It is part of the legume family and grows on vines.This little-known tuber in the West is a very popular root vegetable in South East Asia,especially among the Malaysian,Thais,Indonesian and Vietnamese.Most often it is eaten raw but it can be juiced and used in stir-fried dishes.

Sengkuang tastes great when eaten raw.It is juicy,sweet and crunchy.It tastes great in stir-fry dishes too.I fry Mee hoon with shredded sengkuang.It is used in steamed sengkuang kueh.It is used as an ingredient for filling of popiah,Vietnamese rice paper rolls,Hakka choi ban/菜粄(steamed rice dumplings) and ban pi/粄皮(steamed rice flour sheets).Sengkuang is needed in both Malaysian and Indian rojak.It can be included in salsa and Western salad.

In the picture above,it is used as filling of tofu pockets together with shredded carrots or half-ripe papaya,cucumber and sengkuang.Sprinkle some roasted sesame seeds on the sauce and filling.Serve the pockets with sweet and sour chili sauce.

Prepare your own Tofu pockets by cutting fried tofu diagonally and then cut a slit at the center.Dig out some tofu(to be mixed with the filling) using a small spoon to enable easier stuffing of tofu pockets.

Sengkuang filling in Popiah
Sengkuang and carrot filling in Popiah

I had fond memories of these stuffed tofu way back in the Seventies when I studied in KL.I frequented a Malay stall in section 14 food center where a young man sold rojak and stuffed tofu.I always requested for more chili source so often that he asked me whether  I drank or ate the source.

The same recipe can be used in popiah/spring roll filling.However,for popiah filling you have to squeeze out some juice from the vegetable.A moist but not dry filling is ideal for the dish.Failing to do so will result in a soggy and messy popiah.No seasoning is needed for the filling so the chili sauce provides the only flavor for the whole dish.Note that filling for this popiah is raw so it can be used as filling for Vietnamese rice paper rolls.


 In the picture above,sengkuang is served with gado-gado sauce.This is a very popular dish well-loved by the Malaysians and Indonesians.


Gado-gado(Indonesian Salad,Sarawakian style)


To prepare the gado-gado source

  • 1/2 cup gula apong (or gula melaka)
  • 1 tbs thick soya source
  • 1/2 cup roasted groundnuts ( ground)
  • 1 tsp chilli powder or 1 tbs chili paste
  • 6 limes – juice extracted
  • 1 tsp assam paste (optional)
Serve the following food items with the source:
  • 1 sengkuang – peeled and washed.Cut into thin wedges.
  • 2 tofu or tempe – pan-fried,lightly browned and cut into bite sizes.
  • 2 winged bean – eaten raw if they are home-grown
  • 1 cucumber – cut into wedges
  • 2 buah kedondong
  1. Soften the gula apong over hot water for 10 minutes.
  2. Measure 1/2 cup of soften gula apong
  3. Mix all the ingredients together.
  4. Dipping sauce for the cut vegetables and tofu is now ready !

                Must try this dish.It is simple and delicious !

Choi pang
Sengkuang  is an ingredient used as filling for Hakka Choi ban/菜粄

 The picture above shows vegetable dumpling called “Choi ban” in Hakka.It is not easy to make this dish.Need a lot of practice so recipe of this dessert will not be included here.The point I want to highlight here is its filling which is made up of sengkuang and carrots stir-fried with slices of mushroom.

Sengkuang as filling of pang pi
Sengkuang as filling of Ban pi (粄皮)

Same filling is used in steamed rice sheets.This rice sheet can be bought from local vendor or straight from the  mee factories.It can be in triangular or popiah shape.

Left - Gula apong Right - Gula Melaka
Left – Gula apong
Right – Gula Melaka

The picture shows the two types of palm sugar used frequently in Malaysian cooking.Join our facebook page to find out whether sourcing of these two types of sugar are possible.


Enjoy our local vegetable and dishes,

the ever popular sengkuang,popiah ,rojak and gado-gado !












Tubers and root vegetables of Malaysia (part 1) – the fake Chinese yam

Talking about tubers and root vegetabes,most people are familiar with taro and sweet potatoes but most people are not aware of the existence of some less common tubers like ubi badak/ubi jawa/ubi besar(Malay) or Obis(Bidayuh).Its ID is Diocorea Alata Linn.It is known as Greater yam,water yam or winged yam in English.In Hakka it is called Tai Shu(大薯),simply means big potato but in Mandarin is called Mao shu/Shu yi(薯蓣) or fake shan yao/fake Chinese yam(伪山药).


Ubi Badak
Ubi Badak

There are two types of Ubi badak , ubi badak putih and ubi badak ungu.The picture above shows the yam which is bright lavender in color.Due to its attractive lavender color,Malay folks in Kelantan state like to make purple kueh like Koleh ubi badak,belebat ubi badak or purple cake out of this variety.Personally I prefer to make purple ondeh-ondeh ( glutinious rice balls,nyonya style) from this yam.

My late mom cooked soup with it.She would just scoop the flesh out with a spoon and added it to a pot of boiling water.Other ingredients include anchovies, pepper powder,salt and Chinese celery.For vegetarian version,just add mushroom powder to the ubi badak soup or porridge.Ubi badak cooks faster than taro so it is good choice for soup.This is one of the food that reminds me of my late mom’s cooking, so simple and yet so delicious.Yes,definitely no other food could beat food of love.

The white ubi badak
The white ubi badak

As for the white ubi badak,our old folks would just roast them on burning charcoal.It has thick skin like the tapioca but its flesh is much softer and without hard fibre.I prefer to eat it raw,like the way we eat sengkuang, the yam bean or sweet turnip(pachyrhizus erosus).Ubi badak has a texture like sengkuang but it is slimy.Both white and purple ubi badak can be eaten raw.

Kerabu Ubi Badak Putih
Kerabu Ubi Badak Putih with pineapple,wolfberries(goji) and lime juice.

The picture above shows ubi badak putih in kerabu(malaysian salad). Pineapple was added instead of mango .The red dry fruits are wolfberries or goji(Lysium chinense) which can be replaced by raisin.

Or if you like,you can just steam it with the skin and peel off the skin after it is cooked.Ubi badak is not like other type of yam and taro which must be cooked before consumed.Most yam and taro contain plant toxins like dioscorin,diosgenin and tri-terpenes that cause itchiness on tongues when eaten raw.We have been eating this type of yam for decades,never once get itchy tongues.


Kerabu ubi badak with nuts and lime juice.

We Malaysians call taro as yam but botanically they are two different plants. Yam is a tuber from a climber and  taro is  a root vegetable which is a perennial plant with big leaves.Ubi badak is a woody climber with pointed heart shaped leaves and square stems,thus the name winged yam.It propagates by its aerial tubers or a cut segment of the tuber.

It resembles in a lot of ways like the Chinese yam which has ID as Dioscorea polystachya or Dioscorea opposita.In fact,in some part of China,it is called fake Chinese yam(wei shan yao).Both have white and purple varieties and taste slimy.The only difference is in the appearance.Ubi badak can be massive if it is harvested at maturity.If left to grow in loose soil,it will have a long tuber shape but irregular shape shown if left to grow in harder soil.


Segmants of Chinese yam (山药)

For its nutritional values,please check it out from a site called ‘1 drop1 dream’.

According to ayurvedic medicine,it is a cure for whip spider poison.

According to Chinese medicine,it acts as a remedy for piles and is applied externally to sores.

As an herbal treatment, Chinese yam in its dried form(wai shan-淮山) is used to target the stomach and spleen. It also thought to act on the lung and kidney. It is used widely in Chinese herbal soup and is beneficial to asthma,dry cough,chronic diarrhea and diabetics.

Since they are very similar,ubi badak must have similar health benefits as the Chinese yam.Yam is a good source of complex carbohydrates and soluble dieting fibre. It also help to reduce constipation,decrease bad (LDL) cholesterol level and get rid of toxic matters from intestine wall.This is especially true with ubi badak and Chinese yam which are both sticky and contain a lot of soluble fibre.

There is another type of yam called air potato(dioscorea bubifera linn) which grows wild in the rainforest of Borneo.I was told by some ex-guerillas that they survived in the jungle by eating these air potatoes.Air potatoes have to be boiled to be edible.Most of the varieties of air potatoes are toxic but after boiling  are edible and taste like potatoes.It is actually a Chinese herb used for treating cancer.It is known as Huang tu or huang yao zi(黄药子) in Chinese.